Saturday, 31 August 2013

News Round Up! 31st August

News Round Up!

Every Saturday I post a round up of YA stories from throughout the week. There's lots of exciting videos in this week's round up. Enjoy!

The first trailer for the upcoming Divergent film was unveiled at the VMA awards. Watch it below:

A great behind the scenes feature was also released this week featuring Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet at Theo James discussing the film. Watch here:

Stef Dawn has been cast in the role of Annie Cresta in Mockingjay, the final instalment in Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy. She thanked fans on Twitter for welcoming her to the role. 

Meanwhile, several Victors from the second Hunger Games film, Catching Fire, have been revealed on a promotional banner which you can see here on The Hunger Games Explorer website.

John Green has been visiting the set of The Fault in Our Stars as filming gets underway. See his vlog from the set, featuring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, below.

The title of the fifth book in the Lux series by Jennifer L. Aremntrout was revealed this week. It will be titled Opposition. Read the story on Fangirl Daily. The fourth book in the series, Origin, was published this week. Buy it on Amazon at this link.

Which news stories are you most excited about this week? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Review: Between Friends by Amanda Cowen

Between Friends by Amanda Cowen
Author: Amanda Cowen Website
Published: 21 March 2013
Format: Kindle e-book
Pages: 233
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Smashwords

Source: Kindle freebie

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
The only way to have a friend is to be one…especially between the sheets…

When neurotically challenged and unlucky in love Megan Daniels, is propositioned by her life-long friend Ben Romano with a coin toss (heads, they sleep together, tails they don’t) the night before they are about to attend a destination wedding, she drunkenly accepts his challenge. But when Megan wakes up the next morning with a bad hang-over and Ben in her bed, she is more than mortified. It isn’t until the tropical heat begins to ignite emotions Megan never ever believed she could possibly have, that she starts to question if risking their friendship is the answer to finding true love

My Review:
I've had this book on my Kindle for a while and was so pleased to get round to it during the NA readathon! Between Friends tells the story of Megan and Ben, who finally cross that line of friends to more than friends after a one night stand. But can they keep their relationship casual? Or has sleeping with each other destroyed their friendship for good?

The characters in this book are in their early-to-mid twenties with Megan, the main character, being twenty four. Whilst it's billed as New Adult, and it does fit that age category, it also fits the bill for adult chick-lit. I'm a fan of that genre so I easily fell into the story and the style of writing. As soon as I started reading it I could picture it in my head as a film so if you love your rom-coms then this book is for you!

When I started this book I instantly loved the relationship between Megan and Ben. They have this undeniable chemistry and more importantly they share a brilliant sense of humour. Instantly I was invested in their relationship and I couldn't wait to see their story play out. It's a pretty intense and passionate relationship at times and there were plenty of steamy scenes to get your teeth stuck into and a fair few heated arguments. Not once did I feel it was an unhealthy relationship though which made such a nice change. These guys are just in a really challenging situation. They've been friends for years and crossing that boundary has thrown their feelings all over the place.

I really loved the two of them as characters as well. Megan has always been quite sensible when it comes to previous relationships and has always had steady boyfriends. Her relationship with Ben sees her being a bit more laid back and relaxed, but I loved that she sticks to her principles. Ben has a history of being a bit of a womaniser which usually would probably put me off, but I actually really liked him. I think everyone has a turning point in their life and this was Ben's.

The plot revolves around Megan and Ben's friends getting married, and it made for a great backdrop to their own problems. There was romance in the air and you could see how everyone was taking a look at their own love lives and comparing it to the soon-to-be husband and wife.  The wedding is taking place in Costa Rica and that made a fantastic setting for the book. It made me want to be reading Between Friends out on a beach somewhere in the sun! I'd definitely recommend it as a holiday read.

There was the perfect mix of humour and drama throughout the story. I loved how much of a bridezilla Jessica was as she prepares for her big day. I was giggling away at some of her crazy demands! And there were plenty of friendship crises and secrets coming out to keep me on the edge of my seat. I really loved the group of friends that take centre stage and how there's all these different dramas going on with each of them.

There were only a few niggles for me with Between Friends and that was mainly grammatical errors dotted throughout the book. I have no idea whether these have been corrected since I downloaded my copy. I hope they have! But things like "eww" being spelt as "ewe" and "aww" as "awe" just kept popping up and distracting me a little bit.

Overall Between Friends was a sweet, fun read that I'd recommend to chick-lit fans as the perfect read for the summer months. I shall carry on dreaming of there being a film of it one day because I know it would be exactly my kind of thing!

Rating: 4*
Books like this: The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerski, Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 

Author: Elizabeth Wein Website|Twitter
Published: 6 February 2012 (Electric Monkey)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 447
Buy the paperback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo

Source: Bought

Plot Summary (from Amazon):
Two young women become unlikely best friends during WWII, until one is captured by the Gestapo. Only in wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a special operations executive. Yet whenever their paths cross, they complement each other perfectly and before long become devoted to each other. But then a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France. She is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. The story begins in “Verity’s” own words, as she writes her account for her captors. Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they’ve ever believed in is put to the test… 

My Review:
This book has been on my to-read list for so long. I've heard so many incredible things about it, so when it was announced the author would be at Leakycon London, I knew I had to give in and read it. Code Name Verity tells the story of two friends during the second world war. One is held captive by the Gestapo, and must write a diary detailing her mission.

I'm writing this the morning after finishing the book, and my heart is still a little bit fragile. This is truly one of the most phenomenal books I have read. I'll start by saying that usually I'm not a big fan of historical novels, which is possibly why I've been putting this book off, but I've read a few books set during WWII and really enjoyed them so I had hope for Code Name Verity. Whilst reading it, I didn't really think about the fact it was historical. I was so caught up the two girls' story and the atmosphere of the war that it felt as if I was right there living it with them, which I think is one of the best compliments I can give a novel.

The plot revolves around what happens to the two girls when they become separated after a plane crash. All the time there are hints at what's to come and I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the fate of each character. It's hard to write this review without giving too much away! The narrator for the first half of the book keeps her true identity secret for a while (although it's easy to figure out just who she is in the story). Throughout the book the characters are known by several names (code names and such, as the title would suggest!).

That first half is told through diary entries as one of the girls is holed up after being captured by the Gestapo. What she goes through is brutal and horrible, but even though there's this suffering going on, she manages to keep this fantastic humour as she tells her story. Her voice throughout the diary entries is incredibly strong and she's definitely somebody I wouldn't want to mess with! It was just amazing how I could go to being shocked, to scared, to saddened and then be laughing at the same time. She makes jokes and witty observations about her captors and really speaks her mind. I adored the storytelling in the entries and how wonderfully the tale was told.

Code Name Verity contains some incredible female characters. From the two main characters whose tale is being told - Queenie and Maddie - to the people they are surrounded by who have an influence on them. Maddie is a pilot, and an extremely capable one. Throughout the book we see how she's surprised and impressed people with her skill and determination. Queenie on the other hand is a talented linguist, with the ability to speak English, French and German, something vital to the war effort. I loved seeing the other female characters' roles play out as well, such as the pilot Maddie takes inspiration from - Dympna - and Engel, the female captor we see present throughout the capture scenes.

The book may be set during the war but ultimately it's a tale of friendship. The relationship between the girls is so strong, and defies so many boundaries. The girls come from different social backgrounds and have different skills and personalities, yet they fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones in which they share their fears with each other. It was so personal and touching to see that close relationship and trust between them. The two of them are facing some pretty horrible circumstances and have to be brave and focused, so it was really moving to see that vulnerable side of them both that they felt comfortable enough to share with each other.

I found the WWII stuff itself to be completely fascinating. The book features life inside the Women's Auxiliary Airforce which was something I knew little, if anything, about before picking up Code Name Verity. I loved the insight into the lives of women during the war, and particularly the pilots whose job it was to ferry people around. It's a dangerous job and my heart was in my mouth throughout the book as we see the characters face the reality of flying during the war. I have family in Stockport, where large parts of the book is set, so I was particularly wrapped up in those moments and that setting.

The story was so intricate with all the pieces starting to fall into place at the end as the story concludes. There were some incredible twists that I didn't see coming, and most of them just shattered my heart into a thousand tiny pieces! It's rare a book stirs up so much emotion in me, and all ranges of emotion at that. When I finished the book I had to take a moment to absorb everything that had happened. The story and characters will stay with me for a very long time. Despite how much this book tore me up inside, it's one of the few books I have wanted to read all over again the second I finished it. It's a book I'll be recommending and sharing with others and I can't wait to reread it in years to come.

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Books like this: My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#9): The Elites by Natasha Ngan

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted over at Breaking the Spine and gives bloggers the chance to feature upcoming releases we're excited about.

The Elites by Natasha Ngan
Published: 5th September 2013 (Hot Key Books)
Plot Summary: "There is a rumour that the Elites don’t bleed."

Hundreds of years into the future, wars, riots, resource crises and rising sea-levels have destroyed the old civilisations. Only one city has survived: Neo-Babel, a city full of cultures – and racial tension.

Fifteen-year-old Silver is an Elite, a citizen of Neo-Babel chosen to guard the city due to her superior DNA. She’d never dream of leaving – but then she fails to prevent the assassination of Neo Babel’s president, setting off a chain of events more shocking and devastating than she could ever have imagined. Forced to flee the city with her best friend Butterfly (a boy with genetically-enhanced wings), Silver will have to fight to find her family, uncover the truth about Neo-Babel and come to terms with her complicated feelings for Butterfly.

Packed full of adventure, romance, exoticism and the power of friendship, The Elites is a highly compelling and beautifully written novel from a supremely talented debut author.
So I am sold on a futuristic story with unrest, superior DNA and friendship! It's like a combination of all my favourite things. What are you waiting on this week? Let me know in the comments, and link me up to your own WoW post and I'll be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Review: Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Cruel Summer by James Dawson 

Author: James Dawson Website|Twitter
Published: 1 August 2013 (Indigo)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 324
Buy the paperback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo

Source: Bought

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…

My Review:
I loved Hollow Pike by James Dawson, and was completely intrigued by the idea of his latest book! Cruel Summer follows a group of friends as they come to terms with their friend's apparent suicide. But there's just that niggling doubt in all of their minds that something wasn't quite right that night, and that someone in the group knows more than they're letting on. As the group take up residence in a holiday villa in Spain, there's no place to hide and secrets start to come to light.

So let me start off by saying that when I'm not reading YA, I am devouring crime. One of my favourite authors of all time is Mark Billingham, a British detective fiction writer. When I heard about Cruel Summer and the fact is was a murder mystery - a YA murder mystery - I knew I HAD to get my hands on it. Luckily the author was at Leakycon, as were some very lovely booksellers, so I managed to grab myself a copy.

The prologue opens with Janey's death, which is the spark of the story. Then we're introduced to Janey's group of friends which includes Ryan and his bff Katie, Katie's on-again-off-again boyfriend Ben, twins Alisha and Greg and Greg's girlfriend Erin, as well as super-bitch Roxanne. They're such a fantastic bunch of characters with wicked personalities, and as it becomes clear that one of the group is hiding something, suspicion turns to literally everyone. I had no idea who to trust or who to suspect but I loved that it kept me guessing!

My favourite thing about Cruel Summer, and therefore one of the things I have to mention early in my review, is the way the story is narrated. The book is told in third person from various characters POV, but the predominant character is Ryan, and Ryan admits he sees his life like a TV show. That means the book is narrated as such, with chapters titled "scene one" or  "flashback" and Ryan gives this little commentary on what would be happening right now if it were in fact a TV show. I thought it was just a fantastically brilliant way of telling the story. It made it more exciting and visual, and really fitted in well with the plot and style of the book. Even when we get to see chapters from other characters perspective, such as Alisha, they take on Ryan's style and reference his quirky way of referring to things like a TV show.

I think a great thriller needs to deliver plot twists, and have the ability to get you so caught up in the plot that it can make you squirm. Cruel Summer delivered on both of those points. I probably use the phrase jaw-dropping a lot in reviews, but never has that phrase been so freakingly accurate as my reaction when reading this book. There were plot twists all over the place, and cliffhangers that meant I couldn't bare to put the book down. And it so delivered on the creepy factor! I also loved how all the little bits of information that don't seem that significant at the time are dotted throughout the book, later coming back to play a huge role. It was so cleverly done.

The book is set the summer after most of the gang's first year of university, and involves a lot of reflection over their last year of school. As well as the mysterious death they have to deal with, there's also a bucket load of unresolved drama between the group with love triangles and friendship dramas aplenty. I particularly liked Ryan's storyline which I can't say too much about for fear of spoilers! And Alisha had some fantastic moments too. I thought the relationship between the friends was spot on. I loved the dialogue between them and how, even though this is a thriller, I still laughed a lot. The writing was modern and slick, and the little pop culture references dotted throughout the book just added to my enjoyment of the story and made the characters and story feel pretty darn realistic.

The climax of Cruel Summer was definitely an adrenaline rush. I was reading the book in the same room as my sister and I kept shouting things like "no way!" and thoroughly confusing her with my outbursts. But guys, this book is incredible. I want more YA murder mysteries like this please! The characters were incredible, the plot was gripping and tense and the writing was fantastic. I'll be recommending this book a lot in future.

Rating: 5*
Books like this: Hollow Pike by James Dawson, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

Monday, 26 August 2013

Review: Anywhere by J. Meyers

Anywhere by J. Meyers 

Author: J. Meyers Website|Twitter
Published: 25 August 2013
Format: Kindle e-book
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo|Smashwords

Source: Received free copy from author in exchange for an honest review

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Skye Whitcomb is running from her troubles, and where better to run than Europe? Fresh out of college, she makes quick plans with her best friend Paige and hops on a plane.

Of course, nothing ever goes as planned—at least not for her. First, Paige has to bail, and Skye’s left to travel alone. Then she meets sweet and sexy Asher Benedict in Paris, and sparks fly after a night together on the train to Rome. He’s all kinds of perfect for her, but the timing couldn’t be worse since she was running from the altar when she left—so the last thing she wants right now is a relationship.

But Skye’s about to discover that no matter how far you run, love can find you anywhere.

My Review:
I absolutely loved J. Meyers' other books Intangible and Imaginable, so when I heard about Anywhere - which is a completely different genre to the Intangible series - I was really excited to dive in! Anywhere follows Skye as she embarks on her travels across Europe. When her plans with best friend Paige end up falling through, she finds herself in the company of the oh-so-lovely Asher.

It is so rare that I read a book with a constant smile on my face, but that is what happened with Anywhere. Like I'm writing this review straight away after finishing the book and I still have this ridiculous grin on my face. I adored this book. Completely and utterly adored it.

Firstly, I love a good road trip novel. Anything that involves travelling has me interested, and Skye's travels in Anywhere made for the most beautiful backdrop to her story. Along the way she visits, Paris, Rome, Venice, Bern and so many more gorgeous places. It was the perfect bit of escapism! The writing had me itching to be in Skye's place and be the one visiting all these incredible cities, because the descriptions of the places were so exciting! I read large parts of this book on my train journey to and from the beach, which was probably one of the most perfect places to read it.

The plot in Anywhere follows Skye and Asher, who meet at a train station in Paris and suddenly wind up heading off together to Rome. Skye's best friend has disappeared back home after some life-changing news, but Skye knows she needs to stay and finish her travels, as it's something she's so longed to do. I adored the way Skye had to spread her wings and find some independence. You could really feel that as a theme throughout the book. She's just narrowly escaped being tied down to a man she doesn't really love, and so the freedom to explore the world on her own terms is exactly what she needs.

And now we have to talk about the chemistry between Skye and Asher, which was just incredible! They hit it off straight away, but it never felt rushed or forced. The relationship between them just felt so natural and they fit together perfectly. They have the same sense of humour and the same outlook on life and thirst for exploration. As the relationship develops you get some pretty steamy scenes, but unlike other NA novels I've read, they never felt overdone or tacky. The tone was spot on, and I just swooned throughout the whole thing. I love Asher, okay? Can I have him?

I thought the two of them were wonderful characters, and I loved their individual back stories and how you get to learn more about them as the story went on. I think the relationship between Skye and her brother Julian was one of my favourite parts, and I particularly loved their text conversations. In fact, the use of text conversations between both Julian and Skye, and Skye and Paige really added a little something to the story. They were so fun. I thought the phone calls between Skye and her mother were a nice touch, too, even if their relationship is somewhat strained!

I devoured Anywhere in the space of a day, and it's a perfect summery read that will sweep you away. I got so carried away in Skye and Asher's story and their wonderful adventures that I just didn't want the book to end. And the ending - well, that had me practically jumping up and down! I really hope Meyers writes more books in this genre, because her writing is phenomenal and Anywhere just reinforced that for me. Now excuse me whilst I got and plan my travels around Europe and dream of finding my own Asher...

Rating: 5*
Books like this: One Week by Nikki Van De Car, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Weekly Book Round Up! 25th August

 Weekly Book Round Up!

So after a crazy few weeks of Leakycon and other stuff, I'm finally starting to catch up with my reading and blogging. I visited the seaside this week so a little bit of train and beach reading helped things! Here's my latest recap of what I've read and posted about this week. Enjoy!

Currently reading: 

Slated by Teri Terry

This was one of the books I grabbed at Leakycon. I reached out on Twitter for help in choosing my next read and this was the winner! I'm loving it so far.

Books finished:
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla
Anywhere by J. Meyers
The Rainbow Maker's Tale by Melanie Cusick-Jones

I received The Girl Next Door as part of a blog tour and really enjoyed it, so keep an eye out for my review in September! And Anywhere was another review copy. My review should be up on Monday and you will not want to miss it because that book was freaking incredible! The Rainbow Maker's Tale was another review copy and it comes out in September. My review of The Bone Season is already up so check the link below!


Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

I won this via a Goodreads first reads giveaway and am super excited about the fact it's a fairy tale retelling! It hasn't arrived yet so I'll probably feature it again when I get my copy. Thanks Goodreads and Macmillan's Children's Books!

For review:

Anywhere by J. Meyers

I mentioned this earlier as I've already finished it, but huge thank you to J. Meyers for the review copy!

Skulk by Rosie Best

I saw this on a Waiting on Wednesday post a few weeks ago and it really piqued my interest (shapeshifting foxes? Yes please!) so I decided to take the plunge and request it on NetGalley. Huge thank you to Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry!


Pantomime by Laura Lam

I've been wanting to read this all year as it's a 2013 debut, and Strange Chemistry has some of their books available for 99p on Kindle right now. I couldn't resist!

Library holds:
Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover by Ally Carter
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

I'm so behind with the Gallagher Girls series and feel majorly bad about that, so I'm going to try and catch up! Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover is the third book in the series and I can't wait to read it. I've heard mixed things about The School for Good and Evil but I saw it whilst bookshop browsing this week and it looked so cute I very nearly bought it. I resisted and came straight home and placed a library hold instead!

Kindle freebies:
Submerged by Nicole Sobon
Untouched by Melody Grace

(Note: these were free at the time I downloaded them but may not be free now - sorry!)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

News Round Up! 24th August

News Round Up!
This is my first news post for a few weeks as I've been away at Leakycon and catching up with life. I'm sure I've missed a tonne of news over the past few weeks, but here's what's caught my attention this week. I hope you enjoy!

The first official teaser featuring Divergent footage was released this week. Watch the clip below! More footage will be revealed at the upcoming VMA awards.

City of Bones was released in cinemas this week The film based on the first book in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series stars Lily Collins as Clary Fray opposite Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace. According to TMISource the film opened at number one on the US box office on Wednesday, taking $3,006,254 .

John Green has been talking about the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars with People Magazine this week. You can catch up with the chat at this link.

The trailer for the film adaptation of The Book Thief was also released this week. You can watch it below.

And in yet more film news, the lead roles for the adaptation of Fallen by Lauren Kate were also revealed. lead roles cast. Addison Timlin will play Luce, and Jeremy Irvine will play Daniel. Read more at Hypable.

The UK cover for Unbreakable by Kami Garcia was released this week. See the cover below and read more over on FangirlDaily.

Jack Croxall has unveiled the title for the second book in the Tethers series. Book two will be titled Unwoven. You can read more on Jack's website at this link, or read my review of Tethers right here!

New UK editions of The Hunger Games trilogy were revealed by Scholastic this week. You can see the new covers over on Hypable.

And in more Hunger Games news, the role of Cressida in Mockingjay has been cast. Natalie Dormer, known to Game of Thrones fans as Margaery Tyrell, will play the role. Read more on Huffington Post.

This week also saw the release of the highly anticipated debut novel The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. You can read my review of that here! And Samantha took part in a webchat with Stylist magazine. You can see the Q & A at this link.

Which news stories are you most excited about this week? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Leakycon General Programming Recap: Part Two

So day three of Leakycon got underway! And today was the last day of panels. Good thing there were some amazing ones to get stuck into! You can read my recap of lit events from this day in my lit panel recap. This post will consist of everything else that happened inbetween!

Marginalisation in Harry Potter

First up was the Marginalisation in Harry Potter panel which was run by Kristi Domin and Mark Oshiro (of Mark Reads Harry Potter fame). This was a nice informal panel, with all of us sat on the floor and audience participation encouraged. Apparently the same panel in Portland got pretty heated but everything in this one went completely smoothly with no real disagreements - but plenty of interesting discussions!

Some of the topics discussed ranged from class (seeing as everyone agreed this was something more prevalent in Britain as opposed to America) to disability, sexuality, race and gender.

I was particularly interested in the discussions about disability, particularly invisible disability - which came up a lot, as I myself suffer from an invisible illness/disability. There was a lot of talk about werewolves and the comparison to people with HIV, in that the person living with the illness not only faces discrimination but has this lifelong responsibility not to pass it on to loved ones. Also brought up were Neville's parents, squibs like Filch and Arianna Dumbledore. Mark and Kristi talked about institutionalisation and how the characters are treated in an extremely old fashioned way.

Dumbledore's sexuality was obviously a huge talking point, with the dilemma of whether he should have been outed in the books as opposed to in an interview being a hot topic. Most people agreed they would loved to have seen him outed in the books, but others argued that it wasn't relevant to the story. As with most of the issues that were talked about, it was agreed that you just couldn't fit everything into the story and cover every single issue.

Hermione was highlighted as a character who proves that you can make a difference with her work for S.P.E.W and it was pointed out that the later books channel that feeling of hope, change and acceptance.

One of my favourite moments was the discussion on Hagrid. We talked about the qualities he posseses such as a maternal and domestic nature and the pink umbrella he carries. Hagrid, of course, has it pretty bad when it comes to marginalisation because of his parentage. He's a half-breed which carries stigma in itself, as does being a giant. He was also praised for being one of the more responsible adults in the series after he intervenes during Harry's third year when he and Ron aren't being particularly nice to Hermione.

There was also a great point highlighted about Tonks' ability to change her appearance, and how that would affect trans people in our world if they had the ability to change their appearance at will? It was certainly something I hadn't thought about before!

The topic of mental health was touched upon with Harry's experience of PTSD in book five brought into the discussion, and the fact that he was abused by somebody in a position of authority during book five. Did the adults around Harry have a responsibility to help in that they neglected? A great point was made about Harry's own reaction to the abuse, and how suddenly he's in this world where the consequences of speaking out are punishments that could include injury or death due to the spells and curses the adults in his universe have the power to use on him should they wish. Mark spoke very passionately on this topic, as a victim of abuse himself. He said from the very first book he felt for Harry because of that abusive background he's had to battle his way out of. We also talked about Tonks' depression in book six as an example.

The discussion moved back to disability and how much we'd like to see someone just getting on with their disability, rather than it being a focus or an issue.

The Weasleys were championed as a good example of a functioning family relationship in the books, something we're not used to seeing as there are so many dysfunctional relationships. It was highlighted that J. K. Rowling's own financial situation before the books were published was reflected in Molly Weasley.

Lots of people chipped in when it came to discussing books with relatable characters that weren't rich white males. It's a real struggle to find a main character in a book who isn't white, or isn't straight. Somebody in the audience brought up a book called William's Doll, a children's book about a boy who is teased for wanting to play with a doll.

When it came to class, there was a lot of discussion about the Slytherins and how they're widely represented as wealthy and upper class. There were some great points brought up in defense of Slytherins, for example how they are more than likely brought up to behave a certain way and at school they're under a huge amount of peer pressure to fit in with other members of their house. Someone discussed fanfiction in which Slytherins act differently in their own common room, due to being away from the eyes of other students who expect them to behave a certain way - a kind of "what happens in the common room, stays in the common room" mentality. It was also pointed out that throughout the series we see the Slytherins from Harry's perspective, which is somewhat biased. There was also the example of the pressure on Draco in book six and seven, where he has to make some incredibly tough decision or face dire consequences.

This panel definitely gave me food for thought, and I was so glad to see everyone so passionate about equality in fiction. I can't wait to re-read the books with even more opened eyes after this panel.

Potter Mega Movie Panel

I had to rush from the Marginalisation panel straight to this one, which unfortunately meant I was right at the back. But I still had a pretty good view. Melissa Anelli came on stage to say that this panel would be a bit different from yesterday's actor panel, and that it would involve a trivia quiz! She asked the audience to start tweeting in questions for the cast and decided it would be boys vs girls. She also explained that Evanna and Robbie had slept in so wouldn't be there for the start of the panel. The sneaky plan was that the audience would start snoring when the two of them finally arrived!

The actors came on stage, and excitingly this panel included the lovely Chris Rankin, who hadn't been at the panel yesterday. He was joined on the boys' team by Ryan Turner and Benedict Clarke, whilst Scarlett Byrne and Ellie Darcey-Alden led the girls' team, along with a little help from an audience member. Another audience member gave Melissa a hand reading out the questions.

The quiz was so much fun! There were some ridiculously hard/impossible questions tweeted in (for example someone asked how the Weasley's clock functions! The only answer we could come up with was "magic"). They also had to disallow the question of what the first common room password is, seeing as it's one of Chris' most prominent lines in the film! I can't remember who won in the end. I'm going to say the audience.

Robbie eventually showed up towards the end of the panel, just in time for some audience questions! Evanna never made it which was a shame, but I got to see her around the con a few times later that day.


So I had a few more lit panels this afternoon, and then it was time for the Starkid event. Because of all the chaos on previous days with queueing and the fact that this event was expected to draw big crowds, anyone who wanted to go was held in the rooms of the panel beforehand, and then led by a volunteer down to the Grand Hall. It was exactly like being led to assembly in primary school!

When I finally got in I was in the middle of the hall and had a pretty good view. It was standing, though, and I soon realised I wasn't going to be able to stay for the whole event. All the other events that had been standing had the opportunity to sit down before things started or at intervals. When I arrived, everyone was already standing and the people after us that were led in boxed us in. I have problems with my legs and so I was already panicking about how long I would have to stand for.

The event got underway and I enjoyed some of the more familiar songs, but I'll admit, I'm not a die-hard Starkid fan. I like A Very Potter Musical and the sequels. They're funny and I like the songs, but Starkid has this insane fandom that I'm not a part of, and so I found myself surrounded by screaming fans who knew every word and I quickly felt very out of place. I stayed for a while, but eventually my legs were screaming to get out of there so I pushed my way out to the back of the room where I could sit down against the wall. After ten minutes I figured my time could probably be spent somewhere more enjoyable. I spoke to people who are huge fans that went and had an amazing time, so I think it was a success!

The Harry Potter Alliance

Once I left the Starkid event, I realised I hadn't picked up my book from the Harry Potter Alliance's Apparating Library yet. I saw the stand was open so headed there and got to look at all the pretty books! Eventually I settled on Wither by Lauren DeStefano. The people on the HP stand were SO lovely and passionate. After I swapped my book they told me to stick around for a pop-up wrock concert, so I got to see a little bit of that!

Not long after that somebody working for conference centre came and told them to get down from there so they had to move to the stairs at the side - party pooper! Apparently Hank Green turned up later so I was a bit gutted I missed that, but we had to escape so we could grab some food, go back to the hostel and get ready for the ball!

The Esther Earl Rocking Charity Ball

Dressed for the ball!
 This is a staple of every Leakycon, and is basically a huge party on the last night of the con. Think the best school disco you've ever been to! The dress code is pretty much wear what you like, so people were dressed up in party frocks, dressed casual or cosplaying. There'd been some pretty amazing costumes around the conference but one of the highlights was definitely Boggart Snape! And tonight he was hanging out with Trelawney.

Then the party got underway! Highlights included the girls dressed in party dresses and One Direction masks (which really messes with your head), the beach ball that was getting bounced around the crowd (I think it spend most of the time on the floor), everyone doing Gangnam Style, the moment they played Wannabe by the Spice Girls and Alex Carpenter and one of Harry and the Potters doing some pretty full on dancing with the crowd!

Then of course, it all builds up to the wonderful moment where the night is ending and another Leaky tradition comes around. Total Eclipse of the Heart has become the Leakycon theme song, and at the end of the ball everyone comes together to belt it out in the most powerful way you can. We ended up singing it twice, and I got the first time on video (which I will try and upload at some point and add into this post if I do!). It was literally one of the most amazing things to be a part of!

The Final Day

So there are no panels on the final day of Leakycon, and the only thing on the schedule was the leaving feast. We weren't sure how exactly it would work. All we knew is that there would be food. Hurrah! When we arrived at the Grand Connaught Rooms there was another queue to join. They started letting people with Rockstar passes in first, then we got to head in. The Grand Hall had been filled with tables so we got seated in groups of ten. The girls we sat with were all super lovely!

Eventually we were able to go up to the hot buffet and oh my gosh you guys, the food was amazing! I mean my friend and I had been staying in a self-catered youth hostel so we'd been living off toast, sandwiches and in my case, pasta salad. The two things I'd missed were hot meals and meat. So when I got up to the buffet and saw the sausages, bacon and beans I was in food heaven. I ended up going back for seconds. Plus someone let me know there was free tea and coffee, and tea was another thing I'd been deprived of during my stay. 

A lot of people were upset at the lack of vegetarian and vegan options and I can totally understand. I presumed there would be veggie sausages or at least some alternative option, but all the veggies got were eggs, mushrooms and bread, and when you rule out the eggs for the vegans, it didn't leave very much to eat. The catering was all down the venue (I presume) so I hope that that's rectified should another Leakycon happen in London. I think at the end of the four days, one thing everyone can agree on was that the venue really wasn't the best. (Too small and cramped, not very accessible).

There was a lot of milling around and we got a last chance to look round the vendor room. Whilst there I bought a Golden Snitch necklace, and there were also a few more books up for grabs from the Books With Bite stand so I grabbed the two I hadn't already got my hands on!

After more waiting around to see if anything would happen, my friend and I headed off to the British Museum (which was pretty cool!), only to get a text alert from the Leakycon twitter saying all the volunteers were being rounded up for a group photo. As my friend was a volunteer, we hastily made our way back to the conference centre. I managed to get a photo of them - thanks Leakycon volunteers!

Also when we got back, some of the actors were doing an impromptu photobooth. We didn't have time to queue as they'd already given a cut off time, but I got a sneaky photo of the actors anyway!

I also got the chance to say hi to Melissa Anelli and get her to sign my Leakycon guide book! She was so lovely, really taking time to speak to people. I was a bit gutted I didn't have my copy of Harry, A History on me (I'd brought it with me to London but it was back in my hostel room!) but I'll probably snip this out and stick it in the front anyway. If anyone could let me know what the writing on this autograph says I'd be super grateful!

We also realised we hadn't taken a picture of the Leakycon sign!  

And so the time came to leave Leakycon, for good this time! Sad face :( it was such an incredible few days and something I'd love to do again if they come back to the UK. Just being surrounded by so many people who share your passion was such a lovely feeling. I think my only regret is not being brave enough to put myself out there and make some new friends. Next time! Bye bye Grand Connaught Rooms. Mischief Managed!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Review: Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter

Author: Dawn O'Porter Website|Twitter
Published: 2 May 2013 (Hot Key Books)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Buy the paperback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo

Source: Bought

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
It's the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

My Review:
I have been wanting to read this book for a long time, and the author Leakycon was the kick up the backside I needed! Paper Aeroplanes tells the story of Renée and Flo, classmates who end up drawn into a fast friendship.

I LOVED this book. There are so many things I loved about it but the characters - oh my gosh - they were fantastic. The book is told in first person, alternating between the two girls point of view. Renée and Flo are so recognisable, realistic and genuinely brilliant. The two of them are quite different which I loved. Renée is the rebel, smoking and skiving off school, whereas Flo is the more level-headed, quiet one (I'm totally a Flo not a Renée). They're not friends at the beginning of the book so their friendship is one we get to see grow and develop. I adored how they just sort of gravitated towards each other. They were totally meant to be friends. It was great to see how Flo and Renée's relationships with their other friends play out as well. I absolutely loathed Flo's friend Sally who is an absolute cow (in my book journal where I make notes whilst reading I actually wrote EVIL SALLY in all caps) but it made me root for Flo even more. Plus Renée's friends are just on a different planet to her. I just want to talk about how much I love Renée and Flo and how much I ship them as friends. It's so refreshing to get that invested in a friendship! I need a Renée in my life.

From the beginning it's clear the two girls each have quite a lot going on in their home lives. Renée  has lost her mum and is living with her clueless grandparents and a sister who is struggling to cope. Flo on the other hand is dealing with her parents separating and having to look after her little sister, who her mum seems to have abandoned. I just felt so much for both of them and how they battled through their rubbish situations. Seeing them bond over their crappy lives was just so heart-warming, because they needed each other.

I've mentioned how realistic the characters but the whole book is just filled with relatable situations. The book is set during the girls' GCSE year, and all those worries from that time in my life came flooding back to me! There are boy worries, exam worries, body worries - all those things that make you look back on. I got so nostalgic reading this book! What I adored about Paper Aeroplanes is that it doesn't shy away from anything. There's all the grizzly teenage awkwardness that most books gloss over or omit completely. Yes there's sex and swearing and booze but it was so refreshing to read a book that talks about body hair and periods. Because those things, embarrassing as they may be, are things that happen to teenage girls and I was so happy to see that actually addressed for once!

Talking of embarrassing, this book absolutely had me with all the embarrassing situations Renée and Flo end up in. If you've ever looked back on your own teenage years and cringed then reading this book will make you feel 100% better. I would read these scenes and laugh, because I know those feelings and those situations. Even the more serious moments, like Renée thinking she's totally in love with a useless boy, my heart just went out to her because we've all been there! There's this one scene where Renée and Flo are discussing their embarrassing body problems and I just grinned and then wished I'd some one to discuss things like that with. Plus I love that these girls eat chips and crisps and make tits of themselves and do things that real teenage girls do.

And if that wasn't enough nostalgia then the fact the book is set in the nineties brought a few smiles. I was very young when this book was set, but things like reading Smash Hits magazine and playing cassettes and VHS tapes always make me smile. Plus it's so awesome to read a book set in a time before Facebook and mobile phones. The title comes from the paper aeroplanes the two girls use to share notes with each other, and Renée keeps a load of notes of what's been happening in her life. Remember a time before Facebook statuses? I miss that time!

The book is set in Guernsey (somewhere I'd love to visit!) and I loved the setting and how it provided that close-knit way of life. As a Brit, the pop culture references were all comfortingly familiar, like the mentions of Wotsits and Sunny Delight (ugh I remember when that stuff was big in the 90s and I thought it was vile!) and Blur coming on in the car.

I loved all the attention to detail and how even the smaller characters had big roles to play. I was really drawn to the storyline with Renée's sister Nell, and Flo's relationship with her mother and brother was just as gripping. Even evil Sally had my jaw dropping with some of the moments she has.

Whilst the novel had amazing characters and was very character driven, the plot always had my attention. There was so much drama and plenty of moments that I just did not see coming. Flo and Renée's friendship didn't always run smoothly and so I was sitting there flying through the pages to see what would happen and whether things would work out. I was hooked to the drama happening in each of their families. There were moments that tugged at the heartstrings and shook me up, as well as those that made me giggle. It was just a book I could completely lose myself in. I honestly want to recommend this book to everyone. It's such a clever, witty, brilliantly executed novel that I want you all to go and buy it right now. It will make you relive your teenage years (or comfort you if you're still going through them!) and draw you in to the lives of two incredible characters.

I'm looking back on this review and I'm sure there are things that I've missed. For a three hundred page book it left me with so much to talk about. I can't wait to re-read it, which I'm sure I will do again and again. Plus there's going to be a sequel! I'm so freaking overjoyed about that. I can't wait to spend more time with the girls.

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Goose by Dawn O'Porter is currently in the works.
Books like this: Undone by Cat Clarke, Looking for Alaska by John Green

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Leakycon General Programming Recap: Part One

So I've already posted my recap of the lit track events from Leakycon London, and in this post I'm hoping to recap everything else I went to over the course of the two days. It was such an incredible con with a huge variety of discussion panels, meet ups and entertainment. Let's hope I can cram it all in!

Day One

The first thing to do was register! Supposedly registration started at 9am, but my friend and I arrived a while after that and they still hadn't started. Which led to spending a lot of time in this queue:

But it was pretty cool because I got to meet some nice people! We were stood with the girls from who were super lovely. My friend was supposed to be attending the volunteer orientation which took place at 12, so she got whisked out of the queue early along with the other volunteers. Eventually I got myself in and registered, and I met back up with my friend at the Tumblr meet up!

This was a pretty fun, informal meet up moderated by Colin Mueller. The room was pretty packed when I got there but people scooched forwards and I found a seat at the back with my friend. We spent pretty much the whole meet up calling out fandoms, and then people would cheer if they followed that fandom. I learnt that there is a fandom for pretty much everything (Pointless has a fandom?! I am there!) and I loved the discussion on social activism on Tumblr.

Later that day I checked out the vendor room for the first time. Obviously everyone else had the same idea because we had to queue just to get in! I handed in my book at the Harry Potter Alliance stand as part of their Apparating Library and picked up my book from the Books With Bite stand. Then it was time for the welcome ceremony which was a little bit chaotic! The venue was quite cramped, and basically everyone was squished into the lobby to queue for the welcome ceremony. Those of us at the back struggled a bit because we couldn't hear the announcements they were making at the top of the stairs, and it was SO HOT. Eventually we got in though and the ceremony got underway. 

There were presentations from the Harry Potter Alliance and Lumos, plus a few wizard rockers came on and played some songs. It was a bit disjointed because there were gaps in between each speech/song/presentation so people kept sitting down and standing up again. A few of the actors came on to speak to the crowd which was awesome. 

After the welcome ceremony we headed to the Disney Singalong! We ended up starting early because the room was already full before the start time of 7pm. And guys, it was so much fun! I realised how bad I am at Disney films because I in no way knew all of the songs, but that just meant I got even more excited when the ones I did know came on. Highlight of the singalong was singing Circle of Life from The Lion King, and somebody holding up a Harry doll at the back of the room Simba style:

After that, it was back down to the Grand Hall for the first rock concert! Tonight's acts were Siriusly Hazza P, Romilda Vane and the Chocolate Cauldrons, Solitary Snape, Alex Carpenter and Hank Green. It was awesome!

And that concludes day one! Back to the hostel for a good night's sleep, ready to be up bright and early for the first day of panels in the morning.

Day Two

This was the first full day of lit programming, and you can see my full recap of the lit events from today in my post here. Today was the first day you could queue up to get wristbands for the autograph sessions that were taking place throughout the day. I decided to skip the queues and have some extra time in bed! Most of the autograph sessions clashed with my schedule anyway. My super awesome friend Gemma on the other hand braved the queues, and ended up with a wristband for Hank Green. Only she'd already met Hank Green so she oh so kindly gave me the wristband, yay!

After popping to the Waterstones stand after the first lit panel, I headed to the Grand Hall for the Potter Movie Actor Panel. It was quite full so people were sitting in the aisles. The panel featured Ellie Darcey-Alden, Ryan Tyrner, Alfie Enoch, Robbie Jarvis, Rohan Gotobed, Helena Barlow, Benedict Clarke, Scarlett Byrne and Evanna Lynch. The group discussed their auditions, favourite quotes, worst moments on set, best moments on set and what their future plans are. Rohan spoke about wanting to be an author (and later turned up at one of the lit panels!).

In the afternoon it was back to lit events, then I rushed down from the I Was a Teenage Author lit panel and joined the queue for Hank Green autographs. And man was it a queue. It sort of looped from the middle of the room gradually outwards:

But the great thing about Leakycon is that you can just sit on the floor and nobody cares. I spent most of the time waiting trying to eat the cereal bar that had got completely destroyed at the bottom of my bag. Anyway, eventually made it up to the front!

And Hank Green signed my badge! 

After that it was time for a quick trip back to the youth hostel where we were staying to grab some food, then back to the conference centre for the second rock concert! Acts performing tonight were The Blibbering Humdingers, Lauren Fairweather, The Whomping Willows and Harry and the Potters. This was by far the best night because Harry and the Potters absolutely killed it! And for the finale they were joined by Hank Green. Check out the video I took below and have your mind blown:

Phew! What a day. Definitely one of the most insane nights of the conference. We all left just feeling like we'd witnessed something really special. But it wasn't over yet! Check back soon for part two of my general programming recap!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Author: Samantha Shannon Website|Twitter
Published: 20 August 2013 (Bloomsbury)
Format: Hardback
Pages: 480
Buy the hardback: Amazon|BookDepository
Buy the e-book: Kindle|Kobo

Source: Bought

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

My Review:
I've been hearing buzz about The Bone Season for a while, long before it was released. When the author was announced as a guest at Leakycon I was ecstatic, and even happier when they had copies available to buy at the con! The Bone Season tells the story of Paige Mahoney, a clairvoyant living in a world where people with her abilities are deemed "unnatural". Suddenly she is whisked from the criminal underworld of London to the lost city of Oxford, where she must live amongst a her fellow clairvoyants and the race of the Rephaim, and do her best to survive.

This is a pretty intense read. The opening fifty pages bring a wealth of information and terminology to gets to grips with. The book is set in an alternative version of London controlled by Scion - a republic built to quash clairvoyance - and features a whole load of clairvoyants like Paige with different abilities. In the front of the book is a sort of overview of the different types and their categories and I found that really helpful to refer back to. It took me a while to get my head around all these new words and phrases involved with the world. Suddenly there's all these words like aether and dreamscape, and all these districts of London with coded names. But I can understand why it is crammed into such a short space, because after about fifty pages the plot really steps up a gear and it's all action from then on in. I appreciated that set up, even if it was a lot to take in, because it meant you got to the plot quickly.

The book is told from Paige's perspective, and I found her really fascinating as a character. She's had to accept her place in life and thrives on her work in the criminal syndicate. It was interesting to see the moral dilemmas she faces when she does things she doesn't think herself capable of. Her clairvoyant abilities gives her the power to separate her spirit from her body, a power which is feared and admired in equal measure. I loved how much detail has gone into the way her abilities work and that you get to see the fear and danger associated with such power.

I adored the way you get to learn Paige's story through the things happening in the present, and the memories from her past which are included throughout the story. Everything flowed together so well, and it felt like the book was layered up with all these brilliant little pieces of information that all come together to build this incredible world.

The writing in The Bone Season is stunning, and it's honestly one of those novels where you just can't fathom how somebody has dreamt it all up. The attention to detail is incredible, and the world is so rich and wonderful. I loved losing myself in the futuristic city of London (the book is set in 2059 in an alternative universe - the course of history differing from our own) as well as the setting for the majority of the book, Sheol I. The descriptions of the places and spiritual elements were so vivid and visual. I can't wait to see this book on screen one day, because I can see it lending itself to that medium so well.

The characters were some of my absolute highlights of The Bone Season. From the tricksy Jaxon, to the lovable Nick, vulnerable Seb and the intriguing Warden - I loved the range and variety of characters Shannon has conjured up. Seeing Paige's relationships with all these people was what really drew me in to the story. The history between her and Nick was one of my favourite things and I loved discovering more about their past throughout the story. The connection between her and Warden and that growing intensity had me hooked. I was so invested in that relationship. I also loved seeing her interact with other people in her new home of Sheol I, like when she meets Liss and Julian. She comes across as so caring and really looks out for other people.

The Bone Season ticks so many boxes and hits so many spots. It has that perfect blend of fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal and dystopia, with an action-packed plot, yet manages to feel completely unique and stand out from the crowd. The main character, Paige, is nineteen, so whilst it does fall outside of the YA category, it will definitely appeal to YA fans. I think this is the perfect crossover book that will appeal to all ages, much like Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. In fact genre wise, too, if you liked that book then I think you will adore The Bone Season too!

It's not a light read, and it takes a while to get your head around everything. I think you probably have to be in the right frame of mind to read this kind of intense fantasy and I hope people won't be put off by the opening few chapters where everything seems quite daunting. Trust me, the pay off is definitely worth it in the end. I was utterly captivated by the world and hooked to the pages of the story. I didn't want to put it down. I wanted to completely lose myself in that world. The climax was incredible and I can't wait to read to return to Paige's story!

Rating: 4*
What to read next: This is the first book in The Bone Season series.
Books like this: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

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